The Government of Saskatchewan will allow Alberta licence plates on government highway and infrastructure construction sites again. The ban was initially started December, 2017 with Saskatchewan Highways and Infrastructure Minister David Marit saying it was in reaction to the same rules being applied to Saskatchewan plates in Alberta. Premier Brad Wall doubled down on the statement, saying they wouldn’t back down.
This was met with confusion from Alberta Trade Minister Deron Bilous and the Alberta Construction Association who said it had never been an issue brought to their attention.
Bilous announced back in December that the matter had been taken to the New West Trade Partnership Agreement’s regulating body and that the Saskatchewan had 30 days to gather evidence. Monday night by 11:59 p.m. would have been the last moment for them to do so.
Just after noon, Bilous said he received a letter from Saskatchewan Economy Minister Steven Bonk saying they have suspended the ban effective immediately. Bilous says that the Saskatchewan Government knew the move was not trade compliant and chose to back down before binding arbitration, where a monetary penalty could have been assigned.
“Our frustration is that Saskatchewan could have picked up the phone to talk to us, but instead decided to move forward with this. This has had an impact on Alberta workers and Alberta businesses. We’ve heard from Alberta companies that have not been bidding on Saskatchewan tenders.”
In his letter, Minster Bonk makes reference to taxes on the exporting of beer from Saskatchewan into Alberta, which had some speculating that it was part of the true motive behind the ban. Bilous says this had nothing to do with whether or not Alberta would abide by an Agreement on Internal Trade ruling on this issue.
“I think Brad Wall realized that he would have to, or his predecessor, explain to the people of Saskatchewan why they wasted five million dollars for a policy that he knew full well was offside.”
Bilous adds that despite the lack of communication from the Saskatchewan Government over the last six weeks, Alberta will continue to engage in discussions in the province’s best interest at home and on the world stage.
“What I would like to see from the government of Alberta is to engage with Saskatchewan looking at how we can reduce whatever barriers are left, whether it’s trade irritant, how can we enhance trade corridors.”
The meeting between the two governments in Lloydminster, originally set for January 31st, is still a go according to Bilous.
Written by Dan Soul, 106.1 The Goat